New Delhi: State-owned SAIL has made a payment of about Rs 19 lakh to the Chhattisgarh government to remove over 2,000 trees at its Rowghat iron ore complex so that the steel-maker can construct an approach road to the long-stalled project.
The Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) is now hopeful of beginning mining-related activity at the block in two-three months, a company official said.
Beginning operations at the Rowghat iron ore mine in Kanker district of the state is extremely important for SAIL as the Dalli-Rajhara mines, from which the company's Bhilai unit sources iron ore, are fast depleting, the official said.
The company would also expand the capacity of Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) to 12 MT from over 7 MT at present as part of its overall expansion plan of 50 million tonnes by 2030.
The state government had sent a demand note of over Rs 18.5 lakh to remove about 2,000 trees on the approach road to the Rowghat block.
Replying to a query, SAIL confirmed: "it has deposited Rs 18,92,216/- today (Saturday) for felling of 2034 trees for making of approach road on the area of 3.82 hectares to Anjarel block of Rowghat (area identified for interim mining)."
SAIL said following the payment, the state government will be removing the trees but it has given no timeline for finishing the work.
Another official said the company is ready to deposit money for removing another 10,000 trees on the actual mining block but it will happen only after the state government sends in another demand note.
He further said iron ore reserves at Dalli-Rajhara mines would finish in a few years and with reserves of about 500 million tonnes, Rowghat can fulfill the iron ore demand of BSP for another 50 years.
"The initial plan is to begin interim mining. We will mine about 3 lakh tonnes of iron ore. The number is small but at least it will be like stepping foot in the region," he said.
The Rowghat mine is spread over an area of 2,000 hectares.
Meanwhile, an official said a railway line project between Rowghat and Dalli-Rajhra stretch in Chhattisgarh is expected to reach near the approach area within three months. The rail track is being laid down to carry the iron ore from Rowghat to BSP.
The official added that SAIL Chairman AK Chaudhary "was recently here and he has asked the concerned officials to finish the work as soon as possible."
Mining at the site could not begin for the past few years due to Naxal activities in and around Rowghat, which is said to be the second-largest iron ore deposit in the state.
The company had received the environment clearance (EC) and forest clearance (FC) for the Rowghat mine by 2012. However, it could not start any activity related to mining as the project required the felling of around 1.5 lakh trees which faced opposition in the Naxal-affected region.
Earlier, SAIL had also asked the Centre to provide security so that it can begin operations at the site.